Answers to Questions


Mystery Photo, Letchworth, circa 1910

July, 2010




Can you help
Picture from
The Postcard Detective


Keith Daniells (beedan @t, from Australia, writes: The attached photo is of my great grandmother, Mary Condor,  taken in the early 1900s. Past family members claim it was taken in Paddock Close Letchworth. I have been trying for over 18 months to verify this through different genealogy forums. Can you at the very least advise me of any society in Letchworth who I can contact to try and find out if it is in fact early Paddock Close.

Building work started in Letchworth Garden City in 1904 and the houses are very much in the distinctive style of the houses being built in Letchworth in the early years. This supports the idea that the photograph could have been taken in Letchworth sometime before the First World War.

The picture shows a tree-lined road disappearing into the distance. The trees are probably around 30 feet high, and could easily be 50 or more years old - so the road was tree-lined before Letchworth Garden City was founded. (As a garden city many of the new roads were tree lined - but when this picture was taken such new plantings would have been little more than saplings at this date.) Another road appears to cross the picture (if it continues behind the hedge on the right.), or it may just be a continuation of the road in the distance, A footpath crosses and open grass area in the foreground. There are also what appear to be telephone poles - although the tops are not shown to confirm this - perhaps suggesting that it is a reasonably important road..

A look at Google/Maps shows that Paddock Close is a circular close of houses, and these can be examined in considerable detail using the satellite view and also the street view (move the little brown man onto the road). It is clear that the houses in Paddock Close are compatible with being built before the First World War, and there have been no significant changes since then. There is not a single feature (apart from the ages of the houses) which is common with the photograph. One can therefore be certain that the photograph showing your great grandmother is not of Paddock Close.

So where is it? Most of the Letchworth Garden City was open fields in 1900 so the road in the background of the photograph must be one of the country lanes that existed before house building commenced. I have checked several books of old photographs and the following is the best one which clearly shows houses alongside suitable roadside trees. It is from Mervyn Miller's "Lecthworth Garden City" and interestingly carries the reference number "62585 JV", This means that it is a Valentine post card photographed in 1909. The picture shows Baldock Road, and the book says the houses were built before 1908-9. The trees shown are comparable to the trees shown in the picture of your great-grandmother.

So where was your ancestor was standing when the picture was taken. The following should be considered as a wild guess and you should make further enquiries and check against google street views.

If this modern google map is correct your great grandmother could be coming back from shopping in Hitchin market (her shopping basket appears to be full). As she passes along Baldock Road she takes a footpath at "X" across what might still have been fields to get to Paddock Close, which would have been behind the photographer.

 Baldock Road runs west-south-west at this point and this is consistent with the shadows on the house roofs if the picture was taken early on a summer afternoon.  The biggest problem is that the house on the left has a distinctive end facing the photographer which I have not matched on google/maps.

Basically what one needs to know is whether any other of the country lanes could have been pictured at the time, or whether the picture is on a different part of Baldock Road, where it is possible to match up any of the houses in the background. I would suggest that you contact the Letchworth Museum or the Letchworth Garden City Society. The site Letchworth Garden City Photographic Tour appears to be connected with Margaret Pierce who has published a number of books of Letchworth post cards [link, link] - so it might be worth contacting the site (via the postmaster?)

Keith responded :Your placing of Margaret Conder in the park opposite the Garden Lodge Hotel could be correct as the 1911 census has them living in Hill House, No 145, Baldock Rd  (see photo). Her husband Arthur John Conder had a small 'farm' at the back growing fruit and veg  for which he sold in Letchworth from the back of his horse and cart.

The House in 1950

Pam has now drawn my attention to the following 1911 census return showing a Margaret Conder living at 1 Paddock Close

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

July2010   Page create`d
April 2018   1911 census return